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Re: Intertextuality & the Synopsis

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  • skelley@daemen.edu
    On 7/13/98 7:26AM, in message , Viola Goodacre ... Most narrative critics have offered careful readings of individual texts
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 1998
      On 7/13/98 7:26AM, in message <32C958D1323@...>, "Viola Goodacre"
      <M.S.Goodacre@...> wrote:
      > I suppose that a large part of the answer is that narrative-critics
      > (and the like) are looking for intertextuality that works at the
      > level of the implied author, therefore the implied author (and
      > reader) of Luke knows Isaiah, Deuteronomy etc. but does not
      > necessarily know Mark. However, even this might be questioned.
      > Does not the implied author of Luke know of many who have undertaken
      > to set accounts in order before him (1.1)? And is there not at least
      > a hint that the implied reader also knows of these accounts -- "in
      > order that you might know certainty about the things concerning
      > which you have been catechised" (1.4)?
      > What concerns me is that source-critics have become so possessive
      > about the synopsis that narrative-critics tend not even to look at
      > it. Perhaps synoptic "intertextuality" might provide a meeting point
      > for source-critics and narrative-critics, and perhaps too it might
      > help non-synoptic problem experts the grounds to reclaim at least
      > some limited use of the synopsis. Or is this just wishful thinking?

      Most narrative critics have offered careful readings of individual texts
      rather than intertextual readings of the sort proposed by Mark. I think that
      this will change in the future, but here's my impression of why its happened so
      far. (i) Many of the most ambitious readings have been on GMark, which is
      assumed by many narrative critics to have come first. (I realize that there is
      not universal agreement on this point on the Synoptic-L, but I haven't seen the
      Markan priority challenged among narrative critics.) It would make sense for
      narrative critics to have turned to Mark first: its the shortest, the most
      surprising, and (presumably) the earliest. Given the assumed Markan priority,
      it also makes sense that there would be minimal references to other Gospels.
      Bob Fowler's "Let the Reader Understand" is an exception, with its very helpful
      chapter on "The History of Reading Mark". (ii) Narrative Criticism is still
      relatively new to the field and has had to establish its legitimacy. The
      easiest way to do that is to offer good readings of individual texts. Only
      later will the intertextual readings follow. (iii) Narrative critics tend to
      be influenced by formalists literary theory (i.e. New Criticism, Wayne Booth)
      which offer techniques for reading a single text. The only option, until
      recently, has seemed to be literary deconstruction of the sort offered by
      Stephen Moore. Since that seems to be of limited appeal, formalism has tended
      to rule and, therefore, careful readings of single texts have followed. There
      has been some interesting movement recently at the SBL outside of the rather
      tired formalist/deconstruction divide. I know of several people who are doing
      interesting work on intertextuality- work that goes beyond the New Criticism
      but isn't overly influenced by the Yale deconstruction Mafia. (iv) Its a lot
      easier to master one Gospel and offer a reading of that than to master three.
      The amount of secondary literature is immense and the amount of text to go over
      is equally immense. Also, an intertextual reading of Luke/Mark, say, requires
      an understanding of Mark. There's a rather wide split within narrative critics
      over the stature of Mark. Some (i.e. Fowler) reading Mark as an endlessly
      mysterious parable. Others (i.e. Tolbert) read Mark as a straightforward and
      conventional narrative. To do a Luke/Mark reading you have to adjudicate
      between these two rather technical, comprehensive and persuasive readings of
      Mark. Its easier just to do Luke by itself.
      I have been kicking around a few ideas on this question myself and, should
      I ever finish my current research I plan on turning to the question of the
      narrative relationship between the Synoptics. I've been tracing the
      characterization of Peter and the disciples through Mark, Matthew and Luke
      (using the theoretical perspective developed by John Darr's "On Character
      Building"). Mostly what I have is tentative, but here's what I'm thinking.
      Mark has a distinctive perspective on the disciples- mostly negative, and
      following a downward trajectory. Luke carefully rewrites the characters and
      undoes all of that in Mark which supports the negative view of the disciples
      (the symbolism of sight, fear, journey; the plot towards abandonment).
      Matthew, on the other hand, seems befuddled by the Markan portrait. He tries
      to clean up the image of the disciples- in the myriad of small ways identified
      by redaction criticism. The problem is, however, he still follows Mark's plot
      and includes many confused scenes. So we have Peter simultaneously given the
      keys of the kingdom and called an offspring of Satan (Mt 16: 13ff). Redaction
      criticism shows how Matthew is upgrading Mark here- since the Satan part is
      source and the keys are redaction. For someone just reading the story,
      however, without a Synopsis in front of him/her, the scene is difficult to
      follow. Furthermore, there seems to be a gap between the teaching material
      (which emphasizes growth from small to big, etc) and the disciples, who don't
      grow (or else why would they run away during the crucifixion?).
      In other words, Matthew may not have succeeded in developing coherent and
      consistent secondary characters to the same degree that Mark and Luke have. By
      chaining his story to Mark's plot, Matthew's disciples are running towards
      abandoning Jesus who is then forsaken by all- despite a lot of small changes
      along the way to make the disciples learners and students. The model would be
      the three Gospels struggling with each other for control of the basic story of
      Jesus. My conclusion would be that, on this particular score, Mark and Luke
      develop coherent and competing narratives and Matthew has less success in so
      doing. Matthew struggles with Mark unsuccessfully.
      Might this sort of analysis be useful to anyone working on the
      source-critical side of the Synoptic Problem?

      Shawn Kelley
      Daemen College
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